Joao Moreira concedes he does not know what went wrong for Waikuku last start but is happy to forgive the Group One winner ahead of his rematch with champion Beauty Generation.
Last season’s Derby runner-up seemingly had the measure of the two-time Horse of the Year, running past him in four of their first five bouts earlier this season before it went pear-shaped in the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy (1,600m) earlier this month.
Sent out a $1.70 favourite on his return from a three-month break, Waikuku was unable to find his usual dash in the straight and tailed off to finish second-last with Beauty Generation going on to assert his dominance.
“I haven’t worked it out, I just can’t tell you what happened because we don’t know,” Moreira said. “We saw a result that people were not expecting. He was the favourite and he didn’t perform.
“[Trainer] John [Size] has a point-of-view that when horses perform at their very, very best – which he did earlier in the season – they leave it all at the track and it is very hard for them to bounce back.
“He had an excuse in that he had a big break in between runs and he seems like one of those horses that takes a while to get back to his best form. I am really hopeful that he is able to bounce back and bring his best.”
After stewards failed the five-year-old for the run, Waikuku was forced to go back to the trials to prove his soundness for Sunday’s Group One Champions Mile.
While he found the line better than his previous start, Moreira warned it was not necessarily the Waikuku of old.
“He felt different again at his barrier trial after that race, he has felt better at the trials that is for sure, he is getting a bit older and a bit more lazy now,” he said. “I’d like to say the old Waikuku is still there but we can only find out on Sunday. In saying that, I really don’t think he is done, he is still young and has plenty left.”
Moreira will also partner the enigmatic Time Warp in the Group One QE II Cup (2,000m), who turned back the clock against his rival Exultant last start.
After initially committing to ride last year’s winner Win Bright in the race, Moreira’s hand was forced with the withdrawal of international horses due to Covid-19.
“I was booked to ride a Japanese horse, last year’s winner Win Bright,” he said. “Just before I rode Time Warp in the Gold Cup I didn’t have any rides lined up in the QE II and I was offered to ride Win Bright in Dubai but only if I took it in a package with the QE II.
“Of course I was keen to ride him in Dubai because I thought he was a good chance but unfortunately things didn’t work out for Dubai or Hong Kong for them.
“I was left with Time Warp again but I am very pleased because he is a very good chance in the race, there is no doubt.”
Without younger brother Glorious Forever in the race again, Time Warp will roll along in front under Moreira, giving him every chance to again pinch victory from red-hot favourite Exultant.
“It seems the race shape should suit his racing style so we hope things fall in place once again,” he said. “If the favourite doesn’t bring his best or there is some issue, Time Warp could be winning once again. Even with everything that has happened, I am not too bad for rides.”
The championship-leading jockey will also partner Hot King Prawn in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m) on the day.